LeBron James knew he took on an immense amount of responsibility when he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018.
From the moment the 36-year-old forward arrived at Staples Center, he was expected to bring the legendary NBA franchise back to glory days after it endured its worst spell in history. James accomplished that goal in 2019-20, winning the NBA title alongside Anthony Davis in their first season as teammates.
But that year’s triumph wasn’t going to reduce the pressure that rested on James’ shoulders. The Lakers were expected to compete for their 18th NBA championship this year — particularly after the unsuccessful title defense last season and following Russell Westbrook’s arrival in L.A over the summer.
Yet, the Lakers occupy the eighth seed in the Western Conference with an 11-11 record after the first quarter of the 2021-22 campaign. James is aware that the Purple and Gold are currently nowhere near as good as they hoped to be ahead of the start of the campaign and made a bold statement when asked about how challenging it’s been.
“It ranks right at the top of any other challenge I’ve had in my career,” James said after Sunday’s win over the Detroit Pistons. “Which actually brings out the best in me and I love that. I love trying to figure out how we can be better. Get through the mud, get through the adversity, and make it sweeter on the backend.”
James added though that the Lakers’ best days are ahead of them.
“I feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface on what kind of team we can be. We’re going to continue to get better and better as we continue to learn each other more and more, continue to work into our system offensively and defensively. Like I said, I believe in preseason, training camp, in everything, we have nine, I believe nine new guys coming into a system they haven’t been in. I think that takes time. Obviously, you hate losses. We don’t want to lose. We get frustrated.
“We were mad as heck the other night after that Sacramento loss. We made it a point today to come in very focused on the game plan, learn from our mistakes and we got better. Right there lets me know that we’re a team that cares and we’re a team that wants to continue to get better throughout it all.”
James didn’t re-aggravate abdominal injury in win over Pistons
James has recently shown he is ready to take on some extra burden as the Lakers continue to gel as a team. The 19-year veteran registered a couple of dominant performances last week, inspiring the Lakers to victories over the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons.
However, James seemed to have paid a price for his strenuous effort in Sunday’s win over the Pistons. In the second half, a sour grimace appeared on the forward’s face as he grabbed at his hip — prompting worries over a potential injury setback not long after he nursed an abdominal strain for two weeks.
Although James said he occasionally feels an unpleasant lingering sensation in the abdomen region, the 17-time All-Star added he should be fit to face the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.
“No, I’m alright. I’ll be ready to go on Tuesday.”
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